Q: How do I use crop protection products safely?
A: Agricultural field pesticides are valuable tools to help growers control weeds, certain insects and crop disease. It is imperative that pesticides be used safely to protect both the applicator and the local environment.
Each pesticide will have details as to its safe use on the label. Symbols will give a first warning to the type of risk and the degree of risk. In addition, there will be important information on each label to help you understand the best method for handling a pesticide to minimize exposure. Before a new field season begins, it is wise to become familiar with these risks for each product you use on your farm.
When you prepare your sprayer trailer, it is an excellent idea to have a storage unit with personal protective equipment (PPE) and clothing. These should include chemical-resistant coveralls, gloves, hats and boots designed to protect you from pesticides. You should also have goggles, respirators and face shields available to the person mixing and applying pesticides. Finally, it’s important to have a means for handwashing with soap and contact information for local medical services and poison control.
Be prepared to contain and clean up any pesticide spills. Errant pesticide on a spray deck or soil quickly becomes a hazard to the health of the environment and people. Direct handling of a spill can expose a person to a high dose of pesticide, and contamination of surface or groundwater creates risk in the future. The first step is to prevent any spills, but it is as important to prepare for errors.
Training is important for the safe use of pesticides and the proper use of PPE. Before family members or farm employees begin handling pesticides, they should be fully aware and trained on all of the safety procedures specific to the product. Injury due to pesticides can be avoided, but only if the proper tools are available.
There are ways to be prepared if something goes wrong — first aid training for farms should include what you will do if contact is made with a pesticide. Have emergency numbers posted in easy-to-see places and make sure to invest in good PPE wherever possible — it could make a huge difference in a time of need.
Be pesticide smart — the health and safety of people and the environment depends on it.
Lyle Cowell, PAg, CCA, is a manager of agronomic services with Nutrien Ag Solutions in northeast Saskatchewan.